Last week was the most significant week for DCU hurling in a long time. With the senior side facing what was virtually a play-off for a quarter-final spot in this year’s Fitzgibbon Cup and the fresher team playing a Championship quarter-final, it might have been the week that DCU’s hurlers finally made a lasting impression in the higher education GAA arena.
Unfortunately, both matches ended in defeat for DCU and it could be argued that it was the week where hurling enthusiasts in the university were brought back down to earth with a bang. However, there is still much optimism surrounding the sport, especially in the fresher ranks, where the side provided a spirited showing against UCD on Thursday last.
Back in October, DCU’s fresher outfit were swept aside by their city rivals at home, the scoreline making grim reading; 0-09 to 4-14. In the encounter six days ago though, the apparent gap was narrowed as UCD still ran out winners, but on a score of 1-14 to 0-11.
A fortuitous goal for the Belfield squad was a critical moment in the game, a goalkeeping error leading to the raising of the green flag. Centre-back for DCU was Rob Lennon, who pointed out the relevance of that goal: “They [UCD] got a lucky goal which was a big moment, but they were still probably a better team. We tried hard anyway.”
There was more than a hint of disappointment about Lennon’s words, a sense that DCU aren’t far behind their Dublin counterparts. A referee who allows the game to flow more freely might also have benefited DCU as wing-back Eoin Corcoran explained: “It was the giving away of frees that really killed us and I gave a few away myself. Barry Kelly was a very technical referee. He was pulling lads for small things like a hand on the back or a touch of the hurl and there were countless yellow cards shown.”
Corcoran shared the notion that DCU have started to bridge the gap between themselves and their city rivals.
“Our skill levels aren’t bad and we’re nearly up to the standard of UCD. Our fitness was very good as well but we couldn’t keep the intensity up for the whole game, we trailed off a bit towards the end. I think with the training that Seamus Hennessy has been doing, there has been serious improvements in the ranks. Also, Seamus Kelly is very good at organising everything, he’s dedicated to it. They really are trying to make improvements.”
Overall, it’s been an encouraging year for DCU hurling after the pleasantly surprising run in the fresher Championship. Interestingly, Corcoran failed to deny the possibility that Niall English might follow this exciting crop of DCU fresher hurlers to Fitzgibbon level.
“Niall seemed to like us as a group this year; he got on well with us. He said that he enjoyed the year with us anyway. I’d say he wouldn’t mind coming up and bringing us on.”